Temple-Wyoming Preview: Al Yankovic Edition

Temple-Wyoming Preview: Al Yankovic Edition

"I said

A-(A)-

L-(L)-

B-(B)-

U-(U)-

…QUERQUE-(QUERQUE)" --riff--

The Temple Owls are set to take over the World Wide Leader Saturday afternoon with games on both ESPN and ESPN 2. You'll find the football team on the flagship at 2 p.m ET.

Temple's matchup with Wyoming is the Owls' second bowl appearance in the last three seasons, but only their third in the last thirty-two. Having lost the 2009 EagleBank Bowl to UCLA, the program has not claimed a postseason victory since 1979.

Fortunately for their hopes of making history, they've drawn a very favorable opponent in the Cowboys.

[breaking down the Gildan New Mexico Bowl after the jump]

The Temple Rushing Attack vs. The Wyoming Defense
As Temple fans were delighted to find out upon learning the identity of their bowl opponent, Wyoming is absolutely dreadful against the run. Of all 120 FBS schools, the Cowboys finished the 2011 season 114th in rush yards allowed, surrendering an average of 230.1 yards per game.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Owls' offense finished seventh in the nation on the ground with an average of 256.7 yards per game. This is the kind of discrepancy you're just aching to find if you're filling out a 35-game bowl pick 'em (believe me, I did one yesterday).

For reference, when Wyoming met Utah State—the sixth best team in the country on the run, and only one spot ahead of Temple in that category—earlier this year, they were burned for a total of 308 rush yards. Pressing the point further, that game was only one of four occasions in which Wyoming yielded more than 300 rush yards this season.

Temple coach Steve Addazio has asserted over and over that his team prides itself on tough defense and an ability to run the football. Should they succeed on both those fronts against Wyoming, it stands to reason that they'll be leaving New Mexico a very happy football team.

Bernard Pierce's Last Game as an Owl?
Temple tailback Bernard Pierce could catapult himself up the draft charts with the a big performance in what could be his last college game.

Pierce has already submitted the perfunctory paperwork to begin the process of potentially leaving school for the professional ranks, though we understand this is a fairly common move for upper classmen and doesn't figure to shed any real light on his future intentions.

Still, its tough to think this won't be the last time Temple fans see Bernard play in an Owl uniform. After a history making junior season in which he claimed the schools all-time records for touchdowns in a game (5), season (25) and career (52), Pierce seems destined for the NFL. Factoring in his injury history and a possible hesitation to come back for his senior year out of fear for depreciating his draft stock, it stands to reason that the next time you see Bernard at Lincoln Financial Field, he'll playing on a Sunday.

The Temple Defense vs. the Wyoming Offense
Switching sides of the ball, the Cowboy attack isn't going to make life easy on the Owls' D. Posting the fourth-best turnover margin and eleventh fewest sacks allowed in the country, Wyoming won't be making many mistakes of its own.

Look for the Temple defense to hopefully benefit from extended rests provided by the offense's success on the ground. In the event Temple is able to control the clock and keep its Wyoming counterparts off the field, then the defense should be fresh to both shut down the Cowboys' offense, and take some runs at Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith.

As a matter of almost completely inconsequential note, Smith's backup is one Colby Kirkegaard. I just want to get one look at that kid for the sole purpose of a making a "Soren's kid" joke a la the Eagles' own Mike Kafka.

Wyoming Somewhat at Home in Albuquerque?
Saturday will be Wyoming's second trip to the New Mexico Bowl in the last three seasons. In their last appearance in 2009, the Cowboys defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs 35-28 in double-overtime.

It never hurts to have a bit of familiarity with a given location, especially considering the struggles for most college programs with any and all forms of travel.

Just Where in the Hell is Temple Anyway?
Good question. I was amused to see Keith Pompey's Friday report in which Wyoming LB Brian Hendricks confessed to not knowing where Temple was. I often wonder when the Owls play a game on national television if individuals in other parts of the country have any idea where the school is actually located. I now know that their cultural cache does not extend to our nation's northwest. Funny story.

(Ir)Relevant History
In the two team's only meeting, Wyoming downed Temple 38-23 in September of 1990. Not sure that outcome has a whole lot of import here.

And Finally
We've been working off and on with musical themes all season. Though the choice of this track off the 1999 Running with Scissors album felt a bit obvious (I always sound like Patrick Bateman when I re-read these sections), I succumbed to the realization that I might never again have the opportunity to pair this particular song with another sporting event.

Whatever tomorrow's outcome, thanks for following along this season. I hope to keep plenty of you around for our ongoing basketball coverage.

"So, whaddaya say, Al (aheheh), shall we press on?"

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).